Kathmandu woefully slow in Covid-19 preparedness compared to Lalitpur and BhaktapurMayor Shakya says Kathmandu has a huge floating population and serious cases from other districts are referred to hospitals in the Capital.
The leadership of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City under Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya has been a spectacular failure. The country’s largest civic body’s ineptness has once again been exposed by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even as the neighbouring Lalitpur and Bhaktapur cities have taken proactive initiatives to fight the crisis caused by the virus, Kathmandu Metropolitan City appears woefully unprepared to deal with the situation even as Kathmandu is the biggest Covid-19 hotspot in the country.
Lalitpur Metropolitan City has been earning public appreciation for its proactive role in serving the people infected with Covid-19. On Sunday, Lalitpur’s Chyasal Youth Club converted a community event venue into an isolation facility. The facility, which will be manned by four doctors, can house five Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms, according to officials.
“We have set up additional 160 isolation beds for people who don’t have isolation space at their homes,” said Raju Man Maharjan, spokesperson at the Lalitpur Metropolitan City.
He said 50 of the 160 isolation beds are at Sunakothi and the remaining 110 at a retirement home constructed by the local Jyapu Samaj at ward 4 of the Metropolitan City.
“Covid-19 patients at the isolation centers will be provided food, medicines and treatment all for free,” said Devi Thapa Gurung, the Covid-19 focal person at Lalitpur Metropolitan City. Besides this, the City has already allocated Rs 10 million for setting up an oxygen plant, according to her.
Gurung said critical cases will be sent to hospitals while those with mild to moderate symptoms will be treated at the isolation centres. “Since the hospitals are already overwhelmed, the isolation centres will be helpful,” said Maharjan.
According to focal person Gurung, of the total cases in the district less than 90 are from the city. “So far, the situation is not as grave as in Kathmandu but we have stepped up our preparations,” she said. On Tuesday 601 new cases were reported in the district.
Similarly, Bhaktapur Mayor Sunil Prajapati said his office has taken all the needed precautions to break the Covid-19 transmission chain.
“We were well prepared before the second wave of the pandemic hit the Valley as we had learnt enough from our last year’s experiences,” he said. The municipality has already established 25 High Dependency Units (HDUs) — which, according to him, provide care close to intensive care, and 50 isolation beds in ward-9.
“These units are manned by adequate numbers of doctors and nurses round-the-clock,” said Prajapati. According to him, around 35 persons on average are testing positive for the coronavirus on a daily basis in the municipality. On Tuesday Bhaktapur district reported 513 infections.
Prajapati said the city has mobilized local clubs, city police and volunteers to monitor the public mobility and has strictly implemented the Covid-19 safety protocols.
It is important to mention that the Kathmandu Metropolitan City annual budget is nearly four times bigger than Lalitpur’s and almost 10 times bigger than that of Bhaktapur. The city had announced a budget of Rs 16.42billion for the current fiscal year 2020/21. Lalitpur's annual budget is 4.79 billion and Bhaktapur’s Rs1.82 billion for the current fiscal year.
However, Kathmandu has done nothing to date except for establishing an oxygen plant at Shahid Gangalal National Heart Centre, Bansbari. For the plant, the City had donated Rs 27.5 million and announced to provide free oxygen for heart patients at the hospital. Mayor Shakya inaugurated the plant on Sunday.
Kathmandu city has turned into the biggest Covid-19 hotspot with over 60 percent of the district's cases being reported from the City. According to the Public Health Department of the City, from this week onwards, over 1,000 new cases are being reported from within the City daily.
“On Monday we conducted the 61st municipal executive committee's meeting under the chairmanship of Mayor Shakya. The meeting has announced to set up an isolation centre and a separate Covid-19 hospital,” said Ishwar Man Dangol, spokesperson at the city.
Dangol however could’t say where the isolation center and the hospital would be constructed. “For taking decisions about the isolation center and the hospital, a seven-member committee has been formed with ward-13 chair Deepak KC as coordinator,” said Dangol.
Records at the City’s Health Department show that active Covid-19 cases in the city had reached 1,974 on Sunday, while the City's website showed that the number had reached 2,730 by Monday.
Amid rapid surge in infections and hospital beds in short supply, many ward representatives have reportedly gone out of contact by switching off their phones to avoid pestering requests from patients and their relatives for support.
On Monday, the country reported its highest single-day death toll of 55 and 7,587 new cases.
The Kathmandu Valley recorded 3,893 new infections in the past 24 hours. Of these 2,779 were from Kathmandu district alone.
Bhaktapur Mayor Prajapati criticized Kathmandu for its lack of ‘preparedness.’
“The City has enough money, resources and manpower to fight the spread but they are seriously lacking in preparedness,” said Prajapati.
Kathmandu Mayor Shakya, meanwhile, rejects such allegations. “I have heard that other municipalities in the Valley especially Lalitpur and Bhaktapur are doing a good job but the situation in Kathmandu is different,” argued Shakya.
“We have a huge floating population and serious cases from all the districts are referred to Kathmandu so our challenges are enormous. That’s why we are working to set up an isolation centre and a dedicated Covid-19 hospital,” said Shakya.